The Bourne Legacy

Jeremy Renner is Aaron Cross ©Universal Pictures

Verdict: Two and a half stars out of five
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It seems to be endemic to Hollywood: gather a strong cast, put them in exotic locales with some great special effects and well-choreographed fight/chase scenes, then muck it all up with a middling plot/dialogue/conclusion. I’m looking at you, The Amazing Spider-Man (sans exotic locales), Prometheus and every Michael Bay movie ever made.
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In the case of The Bourne Legacy, the fourth installment in the Bourne franchise, it even has Edward Norton, arguably the outstanding American actor of his generation. But he is given pitifully little to do, and what could have been a really compelling villain is ultimately wasted in a morass of confusing plot turns and shoddy editing. The movie itself plays as little more than Bourne 2.0: a rehash of the plot of all three Bourne movies, and a poorly executed one at that. As if the producers had run out of ideas, there is even a tense rooftop chase and a bike chase in a Third World locale, a la The Bourne Ultimatum, while Joan Allen, David Strathairn and Albert Finney all return for small cameos. Jeremy Renner is a more than decent replacement for Matt Damon, but The Bourne Legacy will ultimately leave you pondering the biggest mystery of all: so what was the point of all that?
The Bourne Legacy

“So I was in Avengers, and you missed out, Ed. Suck on that.” ©Universal Pictures

The Bourne Legacy’s saving grace is its cast, in particular Norton. He sizzles with moral ambiguity and utter ruthlessness as Colonel Ric Byer, giving a speech that actually humanises the bad guys in Bourne: “We are the sin eaters. We are morally indefensible and absolutely necessary.” Norton is on top form as besuited villain and true believer in the ends justifying the means, destroying every secret he can get his hands on as he solemnly tells a colleague: “You and I have our jobs because we’ve got the strength to do what’s necessary.” It would have been interesting if the producers had explored Byer’s back story, but he ends up looking more like a stressed bureaucrat doing a difficult job.
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But how fares Jeremy Renner, a man who has gone from playing the villain in rubbish movies like S.W.A.T (2003) to headlining three major franchises (Avengers, MI and now Bourne)? From wintry wasteland to urban sprawl, the athletic Renner certainly has the moves to match Matt Damon as living weapon and man on the run. Just like Bourne, Aaron Cross is focused, driven and nigh-on unstoppable as he takes on the bastards who made him who he is. In one amazing sequence lasting all of 10 seconds, Cross climbs up the side of a house, enters through a window and takes down a bad guy with a single shot. But there is no memory impairment or disabling opponents with a pen or magazine this time, though he is, interestingly, chemically dependent. Cross is essentially a more expressive Bourne: where the latter was all meaningful glances interspersed with ass-kicking, the former cannot stop chattering. Perhaps they were trying to differentiate Cross from Bourne, but he would certainly have done better as a strong, silent type.
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Incoherent plot and strange, open-ended ending aside, the producers’ biggest mistake was not giving Renner and Norton more screen time together. I spent the entire movie waiting for the real showdown between the two, or as @Moxy_Tod put it, Hawkeye vs Hulk, but it never came. It is a criminal waste of talent not to have two actors of such fine calibre (c.f. Fight Club, American History X, The Hurt Locker, The Town etc) facing off against each other more. Instead, Renner spends most of his time playing protector to Rachel Weisz, who plays scientist Dr Marta Schearing.
The Bourne Legacy

Rachel wondered where the plot was going to go next ©Universal Pictures

Speaking of wasted talent, the one-times-hotness Weisz, besides playing damsel in distress, has a largely expository role. She is given the thankless task of explaining behavioral programming, the pseudo science behind the so-called storyline, though she makes a decent stab at it. Again, looking at her past performances in movies like The Constant Gardener (2005) and Definitely, Maybe (2008), Weisz could have been given a lot more to do, but the filmmakers evidently felt she was better suited to running around Manila looking scared and yelling “AAAAAARONNNN!!!” Though The Bourne Legacy had one very interesting lesson to impart: even a top-secret intelligence programme cannot escape outsourcing to the Third World.
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What did you think of The Bourne Legacy? Does it live up to the previous Bourne movies?
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